Bulgaria Beginners Corner What's the Next Step?
Before doing Bulgarian family history research, you will need to find:
- The actual name of an ancestor
- The date of birth, marriage, and death (can be estimated)
- The place of origin
- The religion of an ancestor
Determine the actual name of an ancestor
A serious problem for some researchers is to determine the actual name of their immigrant ancestor. Some ancestors in their eagerness to be assimilated into American culture, traded their difficult foreign names for American names. This occured often with given names and to a lesser extent with surnames. To read about how your ancestor could Americanize his or her name and to learn about historical background of Bulgarian surnames and given names see Personal Names.
Determine the date of birth, marriage, and death
If you cannot find an exact date, you may estimate dates based on other information. You need at least the approximate year of an event. You may use standard genealogical approximation. From a marriage date, you can estimate that a man was married at age 25 and a woman at age 21. You can also estimate that a first child was born one year after the parent's marriage and that subsequent children were born every 2 years after that.
Determine the place of origin
In Bulgaria, most records used in family history research are kept on a town or parish level. Therefore the exact town of origin must be known before research in Bulgarian records can begin. Most of the time, the Bulgarian place of origin is found in sources created in the country of immigration. These records should be searched for the ancestor, possible relatives, and other associated persons. If you do not know the place of origin in Bulgaria see Determining a Place of Origin in Bulgaria for sources that may give you that information.
Bulgarian place names are often mispelled in American sources. Difficult names were shortened and diacritic marks ommitted. A gazetter, which is defined as a geographical dictionary, is an essential tool for identifying places. Look up your place name in the gazetteer to be sure that it is spelled correctly. Please note that many locality names are comprised of two or more words. If you cannot find a place name in the gazetteer under the first word try searching under the second word.
To learn about several important gazetters for Bulgaria, including instructions and examples, see Gazetteers.
As mentioned earlier, Bulgarian names are often mispelled in American sources. If you still cannot determine correct spelling of your locality even after you searched the gazetteers and the Internet, please post your query on Eastern Europe Genealogy Research Community. You will have to click on, "Join" on the Facebook page to post your question. After you have determined the correct name of the town from which your ancestor emigrated, you must still determine its location. Many Bulgarian localities have similar names that may be easily confused.
Determine the religion of an ancestor
Until the 1900s, vital records were kept by church parishes or Jewish congregations. The records of different religions were kept separately. If you are not sure of your ancestor's religion, start by searching Orthodox or Roman-Catholic records. Not every village in Bulgaria had its own parish. Often, several smaller villages belonged to one parish. Use gazetteer to determine the proper record keeping jurisdiction.